This cover, posted on Caldey Island in 1988, features the four different Caldey local stamps produced between 1974 and 1982 – all bearing a nice “Caldey Island” cancellation – and a postally used 18p Royal Mail stamp to cover the onward journey from the mainland.
The commemorative cover also features an illustration of Caldey Island on the front, and a card inside that tells the history of Caldey post office.
(We have pixellated the address of the recipient for the purposes of our illustration – on the actual cover it is clear.)
About Caldey Island
Located a few miles off the coast of Pembrokeshire in Wales, Caldey Island has been owned by the Cistercian Order of monks since 1925. The first Cistercians took up residence on the island four years later, and continue their work there to this day, though Caldey’s history of monasticism goes back much further, to the 12th century.
Starting in 1973, Caldey began issuing its own attractive stamps. Available from the island’s post office, these stamps were intended to be used on postcards sent from the island by its regular day visitors, to cover the cost of transport by boat to the mainland post office at Tenby. As with most British local post services, a Royal Mail stamp also needed to be affixed to cover the onward postage from Tenby. Caldey’s stamps were denominated in “dabs”, named after a local fish.
It is quite hard to piece together the exact chronology of Caldey stamp issues, but the first, issued on 1 May 1973, was a blue and black stamp depicting the Monastery Church, designed by local Tenby artist Claude A Page and printed by Bradbury, Wilkinson and Co.
Subsequent issues featured St. David’s Church (15 August 1974, red and black), St Illtud’s Church (21 June 1976, yellow and green), Caldey Abbey (January 1980, gold and black, marking the 1979 golden jubilee of the monks’ arrival on Caldey), and the Abbey Church (1982, blue and black). All were denominated “2 dabs”.
In 2001, a new red and black stamp depicting Caldey Lighthouse was produced (again with a 2 dabs denomination).
As of 2019, Caldey souvenir stamps are still understood to be sold in the island post office, but are not, unfortunately, available for purchase from the island’s online store. Indeed, it’s partly the lack of any information on the official Caldey website about the island’s stamps that makes it hard to figure out their current status.
Notably, in 2018, a set of three new “Island Wildlife” self-adhesive stamps apparently from Caldey appeared on eBay, recalling the style of the earlier designs and depicting a black swan, red squirrel and gypsy cobs respectively. Subsequently, we have seen examples used on cover with what appears to be a proper Caldey Island cancellation, and been able to ascertain that this apparently is an official new issue, released in September 2018.
In contrast, one set of more amateurish designs on eBay, depicting island scenes, is almost certainly unofficial – if nothing else, it eschews the traditional “dabs” in favour of standard pounds and pence.
You can read more about the postal history of Caldey Island – and see pictures of all the previous issues – in our blog post here.